Back door minimum pricing in Oldham

By Ewan Turney

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Oldham council Alcoholic beverage

No-one seemed in favour of Post Office style queues
No-one seemed in favour of Post Office style queues
Oldham council is trying to introduce minimum pricing through the back door by threatening licensees with draconian conditions if they don't agree to...

Oldham council is trying to introduce minimum pricing through the back door by threatening licensees with draconian conditions if they don't agree to sell alcohol above 75p a unit.

The Panorama show, The Truth About Happy Hours​, visited Oldham, which is trying to introduce a series of blanket conditions on all premises including post office style queueing, no table service for drinks, seven days' notice given to the council for drinks promotions, a two drink limit at the bar and paid for policing.

However, it has said the conditions were "just a threat" and there was a "big escape clause" — a minimum price of 75p a unit — a move which is considered to be price fixing and therefore illegal by many.

Gordon Brown said earlier this year that the Government was not in favour of a minimum price on alcohol — even at the 50p a unit level — because it did not want to penalise the majority of drinkers.

"The price of alcohol became so cheap it was attracting people who didn't have a lot of money to spend and that type of clientele, we think, led to more violence," said Oldham Council's Tony Allen.

The programme blamed the "drink friendly licensing laws" for allowing so many bars in one area. "Its a great misnomer about the Licensing Act in that its not in effect about issuing licences or making decisions about permissions," said Oldham Council's Tony Allen.

"Its about any person can come along and say I want to set up a bar here at this location."

He added: "The Licensing Act doesn't permit us to do that (stop new bars opening)."

In fact, Oldham Council could have declared a saturation or cumulative impact zone in and around Yorkshire Street. New premises would have had to show that they would not add to disorder.

Panorama did also consider the case of the supermarkets and found Tesco selling alcohol for 14p a unit. "Fundamentally we have no powers granted to us by Parliament to ban the price promotions or set a price on alcohol," said Allen.

"I think every retailer of alcohol has to realise what they are retailing is a dangerous product and have to be responsible in what they do."

The Post Office style queues, set up in a Manchester bar, got the thumbs down from customers. "You would go elsewhere," said one, and another "I don't want to spend 70% of my time queuing, I want to sit down and chat with my mates".

Jayne Ganley, licensee of Vogue bar, added: "I think the Post Office queues will cause more problems as you will get people trying to jump the queue, which causes more aggravation."

Council officials have already been beaten by one licensee — Patrick Kelly of the Mess House who argued that there was no evidence of disorder at his premises.

Negotiated settlement

Noctis executive director Paul Smith said the reality of the situation in Oldham was far from that being reported and feared the trade could spend the next three years fighting similar proposals across the country.

"To claim it as a major victory is puerile and dangerous to the trade," slammed Smith, whose interview with Panorama was cut from the show.

"My fear is that other councils will now look at this and try a similar approach. We could spend the next two or three years fighting this because the reality of the situation has been misrepresented.

"It has been a negotiated settlement. Some have agreed to put doorstaff on and carry out a risk assessment of drinks promotions but nothing unreasonable."

Noctis, which is in favour of a minimum price, also told Oldham Council that setting a minimum price of 75p would be considered illegal under current competition legislation.

Noctis has been influential in setting up a Best Bar None scheme in the town to promote and reward best practice.

"Best Bar None is a far more proven way to reduce disorder," he said. " Oldham needed a good news story after all the recent negative coverage and it looks like the BBC has given it to them.

"We must have accuracy though or the trade could be fighting similar conditions for years to come."

What did you think of the programme? Let us know by hitting Post a comment​ below​.

Related topics Legislation

Property of the week


£ 60,000 - Leasehold

Busy location on coastal main road Extensively renovated detached public house Five trade areas (100)  Sizeable refurbished 4-5 bedroom accommodation Newly created beer garden (125) Established and popular business...

Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more